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HUNTINGTON — Huntington High was effective, if not efficient.

The top-seeded Highlanders (12-0) defeated No. 9 George Washington (8-4) 29-13 Friday night in the Class AAA high school football playoff quarterfinals at Bob Sang Stadium.

The victory sends HHS into the semifinals at home next weekend against No. 5 Cabell Midland (11-1), which beat No. 4 University 46-21 Friday in Morgantown. The contest will be a rematch of the Highlanders’ 21-17 triumph over the Knights at home Sept. 10.

Huntington High hopes for a better performance than it showed against the Patriots, whom the Highlanders defeated 30-14 on Sept 17. HHS was strong defensively Friday, but the offense frequently stalled in the red zone, giving up sacks and gaining just 178 yards to GW’s 277.

“They played well,” Highlanders coach Billy Seals said of the Patriots. “We have to play better. We have to bring better energy. You get this far and everybody is good, and that only increases next week.”

George Washington pulled within 15-13 after Abe Fenwick hit Taran Fitzpatrick with a 74-yard touchdown pass with 10:12 left in the game. Fitzpatrick outleaped Huntington High defensive back Zha Zha Jackson to make the catch. Fitzpatrick couldn’t, however, catch Fenwick’s pass for a 2-point conversion, as Kahlief Tye Jr. knocked the ball away.

The Highlanders played their best football of the night from there, pounding the Patriots defense with running backs Amari Felder, Curtis Jones, Jackson and quarterback Gavin Lochow during two late touchdown drives to secure the victory.

After GW’s second touchdown, Jackson returned a kickoff 29 yards to the HHS 44. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Patriots moved the ball to the GW 41. Felder wrapped a pair of 13-yard runs around a 9-yard gain by Jackson to set up first-and-goal at the 6. Felder raced around right end for a touchdown on the next play and Jonathan Aya-Ay kicked the extra point to make it 22-13.

Jackson came up big again, intercepting a Fenwick pass at the Huntington High 32 with 6:15 to play. Felder followed with a 23-yard run to begin a 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by a 1-yard TD run by Lochow.

“We were in cover two and the wide receiver went to the flat,” Jackson said, describing his interception. “I saw the pass and went and got it.”

The Highlanders took a 7-0 lead on Lochow’s 1-yard run and Aya-Ay’s conversion with 2:54 left in the first quarter. Huntington High extended its lead to 9-0 when Donovan Garrett sacked Fenwick on the second play of the second quarter.

Fenwick pulled the Patriots within 9-7 with a touchdown pass to Fitzpatrick and Jordan Price’s extra point with 51 seconds until halftime.

Huntington High wasn’t content to take a two-point lead to the locker room. Lochow threw passes of 13 yards to NaKyin Harrell and 15 yards to Noah Waynick to move the Highlanders to the Patriots’ 29. Aya-Ay then kicked a 46-yard field goal on the last play of the half for a 12-7 lead.

“He’s gotten much more confident,” Seals said of the sophomore kicker. “He did a great job tonight.”

Aya-Ay missed a 33-yarder at 10:43 of the third quarter, but redeemed himself with a 34-yard make at 2:24 of the period.

Seals said his team didn’t play with the emotion it needed, but praised George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr. for having his team ready to play.

“Steve did a good job,” Seals said. “They were well prepared. They played lights out on defense.”

Seals praised the Highlanders defense for playing well throughout, the offense for putting the game away late and special teams for contributing to both. Scout Arthur averaged 43 yards on five punts and twice left the Patriots inside their own 10-yard line.

“Our defense was OK,” Seals said. “We gave up one long run and one long pass. That’s going to happen sometimes.”

As for the rematch with Cabell Midland, Seals advised fans to get to the stadium early.

“The (Secondary School Activities Commission) is smiling,” Seals said, referring to the large number of anticipated ticket sales. “It ought to be electric. They have a great program. We have a great program.”


HUNTINGTON HIGH 7 5 3 14 — 29

H — Lochow 1 run (Aya-Ay kick)

H — Safety, Garrett tackled Fenwick in end zone

GW — Fitzpatrick 7 pass from Fenwick (Price kick)

H — Aya-Ay FG 46

H — Aya-Ay FG 34

GW — Fitzpatrick 74 pass from Fenwick (pass failed)

H — Felder 6 run (Aya-Ay kick)

H — Lochow 1 run (Aya-Ay kick)

Team statistics


First downs 12 16

Rushes-yards 21-43 38-131

Passes 19-30-2 10-16-0

Passing yards 234 47

Total yards 277 178

Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0

Penalties-yards 9-75 6-55

Punts 3-35.3 5-43.0

Individual statistics


George Washington — C. Matthews 1-1, Fenwick 8-(minus-1), Plant 1-3, K. Matthews 4-31, Pinkerton 1-(minus-1), Kalaskey 1-0, Sack 3-15, Hatfield 1-(minus-5); Huntington High — Lochow 18-(minus-20), Jones 7-25, Felder 8-53, Harrell 1-4, Jackson 4-69.


George Washington — Fenwick 19-29-2, 234 yards; Hatfield 0-1-0; Huntington High — Lochow 10-16-0, 47 yards.


George Washington — Dues 3-29, Sack 9-75, Fitzpatrick 5-118, Hatfield 2-12; Huntington High — Arthur 1-13, Harrell 3-8, Graves 1-(minus-1), Waynick 3-28, Jones 2-(minus-1).

Tim Stephens is a sports writer with The Herald-Dispatch.

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